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:: Sunday, December 01, 2002 ::

The Jesse Tree--Continuing an Advent Tradition:

My wife and I cut down our first Christmas tree as a married couple on Saturday. (It is amazing how fast one year goes by!) It was an unusually crisp and sunny winter day in Oregon and we took advantage of the great weather to look for our tree at a local tree farm near our house.

In years past, my family would always get our tree the weekend of Thanksgiving, rain or shine. I have more than enough childhood memories of being dragged out into the rain on the Friday or Saturday after Thanksgiving, trudging through the 3-4 inch high mud, going past dozens (or was it hundreds?) of perfectly good trees, wishing my father would just pick one and hurry us home for hot chocholate in front of the fire. Needless to say, I was thrilled when the weather held as Carrie and I went to look for our tree without all of the usually necessary rain gear.

The reason my father insisted on getting the tree up by Thanksgiving weekend was because of our tradition of decorating our tree with Jesse Tree symbols. Every day of Advent there is a specific Scripture reading and an appropriate symbol corresponding to some aspect or person in each reading. (Look up "Jesse Tree" in Google for tons of info on this tradition). These Jesse Tree symbols are typically made out of felt, but can be made out of any material that is sturdy yet light enough to hang on a tree branch. Throughout Advent the daily readings guide us through all of salvation history, culminating in the Incarnation. The Jesse Tree tradition is a favorite among western Christians (especially Catholic and Anglican) and it is one tradition I have been excited about continuing in my own family.

So last night Carrie and I put up our humble 5 foot Douglas fir in our living room. After stringing it with a simple strand of white lights, I read the first reading. Isaiah 11:1-4 describes Jesus as coming out of "the root of Jesse"....and the tree itself, as the first symbol of the Jesse Tree readings, is a continual reminder this Advent of how we are called to have this "root of Jesse" in the very heart of our homes and our lives.

It struck me again this morning how powerful the Jesse Tradition has been in helping me be mindful of the true point of the Advent season. As I got out of bed and went into the living room, there in the dark stood the tree; silent, yet unmistakable. For the next 24 days, it will remind me of how Jesus is silently present in each of our homes and our hearts.
And every night, after Carrie and I do Vespers in our icon corner together, we will come into the living room to read the Jesse Tree reading of the day and to hang up the symbol on the tree. Such a simple and yet profound way of making every part of the Christmas season a way of keeping us mindful of the love God has for us. And it is such a great way of "re-baptizing" our society's typical Christmas tree traditions--no more "Beauty and the Beast" Disney ornaments, no more cheesy Hallmark ornaments of Frosty the Snowman purchased for $9.95....etc.

Now, if only I could figure out a way of getting Kenny G's rendition of "Silver Bells" out of my head, I think this will be a pretty good Advent!

:: Karl :: 2:05:00 PM [Link] ::

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